Quantitative vs. Qualitative Printing (3-D Printing Series, Part 3)

photo credit: kurzweilai.net / istockphoto

By Yonatan Gordon

In Part One we brought a link to an article about the “first true” 3-D micro-chip. Included in that article is also our current favorite quote about the future of manufacturing:

“I find it amazing that by using nanotechnology, not only can we build structures with such precision in the lab, but also using advanced laser instruments, we can actually see the data climbing this nano-staircase step by step…This is the 21st century way of building things — harnessing the basic power of elements and materials to give built-in functionality.” –Professor Russell Cowburn, lead researcher of the study from the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Physics.

When we speak about adding layers upon layers, there’s two options. We began with viewing 3-D printing as a quantitative or additive process; something that any first grader can understand. But in order for 3-D printing to achieve its fullest potentials, we need to transition from quantitative to qualitative layers.

We’ve all read books that seemed flat. While the book was indeed physically hundreds of pages thick, it still seemed paperthin to the touch. This was because the story or plot line didn’t properly develop from Page 1 to Page 300. While layer after layer, page after page, were being printed, qualitatively the book still seemed very two-dimensional.

This is why we so much like this quote from Prof. Cowburn. In order to produce a “true” 3-D micro-chip, he had the change the way his chip transmitted data. No longer would charge-based electronic technology suffice. He had to make use of the tiny magnetic spin of electrons. Not only was it a 3-D chip, but it was now also a “spintronic” (spin transport electronic) chip.


The fact that chips used to be charge-based, and now we have an improved spin-based chip, is not the main point of interest here. What’s so disruptive from these findings is that maybe chips were always meant to be spin-based? Just we didn’t know it unless we had to make a 3-D version.

This is how we interpreted “built-in functionality” and why we found this quote so compelling. We spoke in the past about the print vs. digital debate in the book publishing world. It was noted there that the motivation to go digital has to do with a desire to appreciate the “light” or insights contained in the book. Now we are saying the opposite. Thick printed books force us to judge whether they are truly worthy of their 3-D status or not. When we hold a nice thick book, and the content inside matches the tactile feel, then to our senses, this seems like a good read.

We mentioned throughout this series that 3-D printing relates to the concept of “standing.” When sitting, the head and the body are more at the same level than when one stands. The issue with sitting is that the head is really “too” close to the body. Ideally, the head (mind/intellect) should be always the highest part, leading the emotions of the body. The mind is only revealed in its fullest when a person is standing.

This then explains why a shift from 2-D to 3-D chips also necessitated a shift from charge to spin. Charge is relatively emotive (i.e the sitting position, where the head is on the same level as the heart), whereas spin relates to the exacting methods of scientific exploration (i.e. the standing position, where the head is the highest part of the body).

The difference between sitting and standing also relates to what makes a book a bestseller. The two essential ingredients for writing successful and interesting stories or scripts is that they have both love and courage. While love deals with the interplay of the emotions, courage is exhibited when there is some challenge to overcome. Courage brings out the character in a protagonist. If there is no love in a story, the story lacks value. If there is no courage, no heroism, it is not interesting.

Courage then relates to the walking (standing) movements of the protagonist. Their ability to overcome obstacles is dependent on the way in which they “spin.” Whereas love (sitting) is all emotive or charge based.


When God addresses Ezekiel He says, “Stand on your feet.” To stand reveals the mind, and at the same time, it include the lowest levels in the body’s circulatory system. When standing we see all the levels of the body.

When we received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, we stood instead of sitting down. Even today, when we call people to the Torah, we say “Ya’amod” which means “Stand…”. To receive the Torah you have to stand.

There are some that project that 3-D printers will democratize the world of products. Although intellectual rights issues need to be sorted out, the thought is that this technology will equalize the playing field. Poor and rich alike will be able to print whatever their heart desires.

This idea also relates very much to our discussion. First, the concern that these new advances should honor trademarks, patents, etc… relates to our idea that the head leads the rest of the body primary when in a standing position. The “head” in this case is the great contributions of human creativity and thoughtfulness that went into designing these products.

The notion behind this “democratization” of products also relates to a body standing upright. Even though there are certain organs and parts of the body more vital than others, standing is the great equalizer for them all. From head to toe, everyone can be seen. This is like the poor person who will be able to print a luxury car just as easily as the rich person.


As mentioned, the difference between love and courage is also the difference between sitting (2-D printing) and standing (3-D). To elaborate on this thought, we can now explain that sitting is a local phenomenon whereas standing is a non-local phenomenon. The courage of the protagonist is to go out of his limitations and boundaries, not remained seated in comfort.

Someone who has reached intellectual expansiveness (termed Mochin d’Aba) finds God easily in all areas of life, including 3-D printers for instance. Someone with Mochin d’Ima can only find God readily in those things that are holy, with mitzvot. At this level a person is still a mekabel, a receiver. As long as he is receiving, he cannot give because he is too busy receiving, and does not have the ability to give to others what he has learnt.

Standing then also connotes the ability to go out into the world and change things for the better. In the bestseller, this relates to the courage of the protagonist. With printing, this represents our drive to reveal the true nature of the objects we are printing.

Sitting is not only what we call a local phenomenon, but it also places the person as a receiver (student) rather than a giver (teacher). Only when products themselves “stand up,” when they are printed with their “built-in” functionality, will we realize the full benefits they really hold.

In the meantime, the head is at the same level as the body, and the chips are charge or emotive based. But really the head was intended to be the highest part, and chips were always meant to always graduate beyond charge.

3-D printing is so compelling because it reminds us to look at products and the world in a new way. It encourages us to get up from our seats, and start making a difference. By showing the true nature behind those things in the world we think we understand, we can also fulfill the precept in Jewish thought: “In all your ways, know Him.”

Excerpted and adapted from the weekly shiur given 21 Shevat 5773 from Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh (pages 5-6)


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